I love my summer job! I get to see a variety of freshman and transfers. They all present new challenges to me and I try and problem solve for them. So far, I have done an excellent job at ticking the boxes and explaining what they need to graduate. I have a reason for doing this job well:
My freshman advisor screwed me over. My sister's freshman advisor's screw up was worse. She needed two core classes to get into her Education program and she wasn't told about them. So, thankfully, my sister was able to get into summer courses. The worst that mine did was put me in a French class I didn't want (blargh) and sign me up for 18 credit hours because she couldn't count. For this reason, I have memorized the requirements for Pre-Ed and I always count off the number of credit hours in front of the student.
I like my students. They are generally bright. Their parents are sometimes crazy awesome. I had one mom popping one liners out left and right! Her son was such a sweetie. I had a great time with them. I even asked if she could be the voice in my head when I need a come back. She was a hoot. I have other parents who are clearly confused and just want answers. Their kid is sitting there, near tears, and the parents just want to help. It's my job to help them. A lot of times they get defensive at first. I have realized why - the other pre-whatever advisors have really done a crappy job explaining things and they feel as though I will also ignore their questions.
I won't. Once I make that clear, they really help me understand their student's abilities/needs and become helpful rather than problematic.
One main issue I have had is that students come to me "undeclared" and then want to say they are going to declare Business or Journalism. Now, we have the number one J-School in the country. I get it. It's a great program. Our business program is also good. However, we cannot have students doing both and graduating in a reasonable time.
I have designed a way to handle this.
Ask one question: Do you like math?
Usually students either love it or hate it (I HATE it, did not want to follow Dad into one of the country's most prestigious business schools). I had one student who barely passed pre-calc in school, did poorly on a placement exam, and then heard he would have to take four math classes and flat out said no to business. Others say, "Why do I have to take accounting?" Well, because that is pretty much a foundation of business. If they like math, I encourage them to look over the other requirements. At this point, they usually want to go business. If still not sold, I ask if they like writing and the social sciences - all big requirements of Journalism. The answer: usually no. Furthering reinforcing business.
Students that hate math usually love writing. And for this reason, Journalism is the better fit.
Of course, then there is student A. Student A is a smart kid. He has a bunch of AP's and Dual Credits coming in. He has done well on math placement. And then when he comes in, he says, "I want to do Journalism, Business, and Pre-Law."
Wow. This is even more confusing, but thankfully I am who I am and can help him understand what a Pre-Law major looks like. As I talk to him, I find he hates math, even though he is good at it. He likes writing, but not necessarily journalism. So, I slide Poli Sci in there as an option. His parents ask, "What jobs are there?" Same question my dad asked when I said my junior year of high school that that was what I planned to do for the rest of my life.
I explained the options, talked to them about other "flavors" of poli sci outside of American Government. They suddenly think I am the coolest grad student ever and say they can't believe their kid lucked out. I laughed because I can't be his advisor for the fall. Faces fall and I feel loved because they are actually going to miss me. I give them my email and they say they are going to email me when they get home - and they do!
Coolest kid and parents ever. Moral of the story - ask questions. Kids don't know what they want to do. Parents may have no clue what their kids options are - hence Journalism and Business! But the best major is rarely so obvious. For this kid, it appears he really loves political science and wants to make it his major. I handed him off to our departmental advisor and got butterflies. That was a great day. I love when I can convert one to the dark side.
I do love this work. Hopefully someday when I am a director of u-grad studies I can pass it along to some more awesome kids!